Whether you're a recent computer-science graduate or a brave career-changer just out of a coding bootcamp, navigating your first year in tech can be challenging.
“There was so much to learn during my first year, it felt like I was drinking from a firehose,” recounted Mitch Irvin, who is now entering his fourth year as a software engineer.
To make sure you thrive in your first year in tech, we asked two professionals who recently traveled the “newbie” path to share what they learned, as well as their tips for initial success.
Conquer Imposter Syndrome
To put it simply, sometimes there is just so much coming at you, you are probably going to feel like a fraud who doesn’t know anything. This is called “imposter syndrome,” and it can really throw you off your game if you let it.
“You are going to experience ego death in your first year,” admitted Maigen Thomas, who jettisoned her job as a flight attendant to attend web-development bootcamp and is now a senior UX/UI engineer.
“You are going to feel like your ideas suck and like you can’t deliver anything right, especially when your teammates dismiss your ideas,” she said.
The good news: There is hope in the struggle. When you experience a loss of confidence, remember that nobody expects you to know everything, especially during your first year or two. Nor does pervasive doubt mean that you are a bad engineer, Irvin pointed out: “The speed of your personal growth is not linear.” Hang in there: Your skills should radically improve within three years or so.
Resist the urge to hunker down in your cubicle when you’re feeling overwhelmed or insecure. Instead, leverage your fear of failure to learn as much as you can about the development process, and the impact of your work on others. You’ll be surprised at how supportive your team will be, if you demonstrate an eagerness and willingness to learn.
Pay Your Dues
While you need to take care of your health and emotional well-being when you’re under stress, the fact is that you may need to spend a few hours every night brushing up on core skills and software development fundamentals to increase your on-the-job performance. Let’s face it, school doesn’t teach you everything you need to know. Putting in some extra time and effort in the first year is one of the best ways to accelerate your learning curve.
Solve the Problem First
Sometimes, new technologists try to impress their boss and teammates with their technical skills by turning out a high volume of code. However, prioritizing quantity over quality is not the best way to make a positive impression. To be effective, software engineers need to hone their problem-solving skills and demonstrate the ability to provide value.
“New tech pros often use code to describe a solution when they should be focusing on identifying and understanding the problem and finding a solution first,” Irvin said.
If you want to thrive in your first year in the tech field (and beyond), get in the habit of solving a problem before you start writing code.
Celebrate Small Wins
When starting your career, it’s a good idea to seek out a mentor or someone who can provide guidance and support. To boost your morale, keep a list of everything you’ve learned and accomplished, Thomas advised. Review your list when you need a reminder of your ability to grow and get things done.
First Year, Prioritize People Over Projects
New technologists soon discover that building positive relationships with your teammates is not only important—it is sometimes much harder than building software.
Prioritizing people over the outcome of a project is how successful professionals tend to get ahead. Build trust by getting to know your teammates as people. Ask them out to coffee or lunch and demonstrate a desire for mutual respect.
Remind yourself that you don’t have to like everyone you work with (and, frankly, they don’t have to like you). But you do need to learn how to work effectively with everyone, including a coworker you don't like. That’s a key way to survive your first year in tech.